Consumers now expect brands to be where they are, when they are, in the format they expect, and on the device they are using at the time. As a result, information is simultaneously found, shared, read, seen, heard and watched as awareness is being generated and decisions are being formed.
Traditional media is being disrupted and becoming more digital. At the same time, content marketing, search and social are being elevated into more integral parts of holistic digital marketing campaigns.
As traditional media and content marketing converge, there lies the perfect storm for brands to become publishers and storytellers across all channels and platforms.
Through owned, earned and paid media, brands now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with their audience and transform into media companies.
Digital mediums such as YouTube are evolving much faster than traditional TV. Brands are using these digital mediums to connect with their audience in a more personalised way – just as consumers now expect.
Take this video from Coke for example.
The comments are all generally positive, such as:
“Well done guys, the idea with bottles and glasses is great. Could be good ad for coke 🙂 ”
“I usually skip all the publicity on this site, but this time was different, I give it a chance and it amazed me. I hope Coca Cola give you guys a big $ for this, because this is golden.”
It’s a world where people actually want to consume and share branded content.
Content Marketing to Become Content Brands
There are three areas of focus needed to help brands become media companies: strategy, publishing and amplification.
Entire books have been written about strategy so of course we can’t cover it all here. One important rule we follow is to never create strategy in a vacuum.
It’s vital to fuse your market research, SEO, content, publishing and amplification strategies into one. If you do SEO without publishing you end up link building instead of link earning. If you do amplification without market research you end up potentially promoting to the wrong audience in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The following items must be considered when developing an effective content strategy:
Voice and tone
Style guidelines and branding
Personas – audience demographics and psychographics
Content plan – channel integration
Social and community
A proper content marketing strategy that incorporates market research, SEO, brand publishing, and amplification will drive leads while improving search and social as channels.
2. Brand Publishing
In order for brands to connect with their consumers across fragmented digital mediums, they have to become storytellers. To effectively become a brand publisher they need processes, talent, technology and great content.
The significance of the content producer is most evident in Google and Twitter. Google updated its Agent Rank algorithm in 2011, and launched Google+, which they’ve defined as their social network, and identity service. Google’s algorithm is now asking “who” is creating the content and how influential is that producer within his or her niche. In mid-2012 Google began displaying rich snippets including the author’s name and picture in search results for more than 20 percent of all keyword searches. This illustrates Google’s use of authorship as a strong trust signal and one that should, and will, become more prominent.
3. Content Amplification
The industry has exploded with incredible companies and platforms to help brands amplify their content. We’ve partnered with many, if not most, of the companies in the content discovery space and native advertising so that we can help brands get in front of the right audience at the right time. Content amplification makes all content, search, and social efforts more productive, leading to increased visibility, engagement, and revenue. Content amplification is conducted through earned media/digital PR and paid media.
Earned Media/Digital PR
Earned media relates to all marketing and PR that benefits a brand’s visibility without the cost of advertising. Earned media occurs naturally, but can be amplified further through targeted content placement and influencer outreach.
Content Placement – Integrate brand citations and links within relevant stories published on targeted third party publications.
Influencer Outreach – Promote corporate product content and publication content to reputable influencers within the industry or related verticals and design custom engagement plans for promotion.
Paid media represents all forms of digital advertising and is effective at reaching an audience that may be otherwise unreachable.
Access your search audience where you are lacking visibility in organic rankings. Information gathered from Paid Search can fuel current and future strategies. With keywords mapped properly to customer need and intent, ad copy can be hyper-targeted to satisfy customer needs, and landing page optimisation can further improve conversions.
Expose brand messaging and publication content to an ultra- targeted audience. Paid social is excellent at driving awareness on a new product or brand asset.
Native Advertising – Drive publication content impressions through category relevant publishing outlets to increase readership, social fans, and brand advocates. Display & Retargeting – Remind consumers of the brand through calculated display retargeting. This tactic becomes more impactful with brand publishing as users can be influenced from awareness to interest, desire and action.
Similar to traditional public relations, the intent of amplification is to get your strategic and coordinated brand message in front of your audience and consumer at the right time and in the right place. When executed properly, amplification and continuous, yet appropriate, stimulation of your audience and customers will lead them through the purchase funnel.
So what does all this mean?
The big buzzword in the marketing world right now is ‘content marketing’.
You may have heard it nefariously operating under various names: Custom publishing, custom media, customer media, customer publishing, private media, branded content, corporate media, corporate publishing, corporate journalism and branded media. However it all boils down to the same thing: creating engaging content that attracts, engages and builds a relationship with an audience which may make a purchase in time.
As with any marketing practice – the definitions of content marketing are manifold and expansive – however, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, sums up the ethos as:
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services… they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you”.
Regardless of the moniker du jour – content marketing represents a massive shift in thinking for brands who have historically placed great stock against the interruptive marketing of yore.
Traditionally, brands – in a bid to capture attention – have interrupted consumers to talk about their product; when you’re reading a magazine – you see an ad; if you’re watching TV – you see a commercial; when you’re online – you get a pop-up. Each of these interruptions is an unsolicited marketing message from a brand that you may or may not give two hoots about.
30 years ago, market research firm Yankelovich estimated that the typical city-dweller was subject to 2,000 of these marketing messages a day. When Yankelovich revisited the study in 2008 this number had grown to 5,000.
Consumer research continually highlights that most of these marketing message are irrelevant to their current interests and needs. More importantly, each of us now has increasing control over what marketing we receive from brands; we can opt-out of telemarketing and direct-mail; unsubscribe from email; skip TV ads; and so forth.
The antidote to this has been for brands to start seeking ‘permission’ to gain consumers’ attention. And what better way to gain permission to get someone’s attention than when they are actually looking for you. Or at least something you can help with.
Content marketing has emerged then as means to reach people who are continually looking for information, entertainment or help. Brands can use content marketing to pull people in who aren’t necessarily interested in a specific product but instead meeting a need-state behind the product purchase.
There are many standout examples of content marketing. These include, L’Oreal which has Makeup.com – a site that talks about style and beauty issues without overtly pushing L’Oreal’s own product line; General Mills offers dieting advice and tips at Tablespoon.com; Red Bull has created Red Bulletin – a high-octane magazine for thrill-seekers and sports fanatics; American Express have created Open Forum – a portal of helpful articles which cover issues faced by small business owners.
In none of these examples are the brands explicitly saying buy this, buy that, buy now. Rather, they are publishing and distributing content that engages and attracts customers and prospects and enables their lifestyles. It is lifestyle-centric rather than product-centric.
For sure, forward-thinking major brands have been doing content marketing for decades. One famous example is the Michelin Guide which was originally written in 1900 by Michelin tire founders and brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, the original publication consisted of 35,000 free guides that included practical information, travel tips, and maps to vehicle fuel and service stations. Since then, these guides been used by warring soldiers and tourists alike and have grown to considerable prestige as an authority in destination travel and restaurant suggestions.
However, it is the rate, ubiquity and variety of content marketing – especially online – that has shown the how far content marketing as a practice has come.
We are increasingly living in a world where content is king and great way to steal and hold attention. Because you have chosen to read this article – you have elected to concentrate your interest here, rather than elsewhere. There is no doubt the information we read has an impact on what we think, what we do – and most importantly for a brand – what we buy. And this is why brands are now rushing to become publishers.